Sometimes the planes of two different parts of life overlap a little too closely. A few months ago I came into work to fill in for a few hours. A wonderful shepherd mix had died suddenly the night before and the owner wanted us to do a necropsy, or dog autopsy, to see what happened.
I put on my scrubs but forgot my work shoes, so ended up wearing my mary janes. I started the work in the back room, with a tech, a new very sharp knife, and gloves. We found twisted intestines, and there was nothing anyone could have done for this good dog.
We cleaned up the room and wrapped up our friend for the freezer for cremation pick-up. I had blood on my forearms and on my shoes, despite trying to be careful. And you can’t really shake the smell of blood and viscera, once it’s on your skin.
I went home, saddened. I had called the owner with the findings before I left the clinic. Grief formed a thick silence over the phone.
When I got home, I was mobbed by my pack, their noses to my shoes and my arms. I had changed back into street clothes, but their noses pick up what a human cannot. I felt queasy and wound up, and it was way past lunch, but I just couldn’t eat. I sat with my dogs quiet for awhile.
I ended up stepping out to get a sandwich later that day, and made a weird choice: I went to a local artisanal butcher where they cut up animals by the front counter. Thankfully, the butcher was on break when I placed my order.
I went outside to eat on the street and people watch. I was almost able to let the earlier part of my day go, and then I bit into the gourmet sandwich with pickled asparagus, eggs, arugula, feta and beets. It was delicious. Then I realized beet juice was running down my wrists and it looked conspicuously like the recent blood that had been there. It was almost too much.
Then I saw a terrier go by on a bike, in its basket. The dog had on a minute helmet (the owner did not) and they pedaled by, almost an hallucination. The dog had a long suffering, I have to wear this dumb hat look on its face. The human motored along slowly, like it was the most natural thing in the world. And then things were good again, a sandwich, sun on my face, a summer breeze.